I think most of us know what is happening in the world—the threat of war, the nuclear bomb, the many tensions and conflicts that have brought about new crises. It seems to me that a totally different kind of mind is necessary to meet these challenges. A mind that is not specialised, not trained only in technology, that is not merely seeking prosperity, but that can meet challenges adequately, completely. And it seems to me that that is the function of education, that is the function of a school.
Everywhere - in Europe, Russia, America, Japan and here - they are turning out technicians, scientists, educators. These specialists are incapable of meeting the enormously complex challenge of life. They are utterly incapable and yet they are the people who rule the world as the politician, as the scientist. They are specialists in their fields and their guidance, their leadership has obviously failed and is failing. They are merely responding to the immediate. You see, we are thinking in terms of the immediate, the immediacy of events. We are concerned with the immediate responses of a country that is very poor, like India, or the immediate responses of the enormous prosperity of the West. Everyone is thinking in terms of doing something immediately. I think one has to take a long view of the whole problem and I do not think a specialist can do this because specialists always think in terms of action which is immediate. Though immediate action is necessary, I think the function of education is to bring about a mind that will not only act in the immediate but go beyond.
Throughout the world, the authoritarian governments, the priests, the professors, the analysts, the psychologists, everybody is concerned with controlling or shaping or directing the mind and, therefore, there is very little freedom. The real issue is to find out how to live in a world that is so compulsively authoritarian, so brutal and tyrannical, not only in the immediate relationships but in social relationships, how to live in such a world with the extraordinary capacity to meet its demands and also to be free. I feel education of the right kind should cultivate the mind not to fall into grooves of habit, however worthy or noble, however technologically necessary, but to have a mind that is extraordinarily alive, not with knowledge, not with experience, but alive. Because often the more knowledge one has, the less alert the brain is.
I am not against knowledge. There is a difference between learning and acquiring knowledge. Learning ceases when there is only accumulation of knowledge. There is learning only when there is no acquisition at all. When knowledge becomes all-important, learning ceases. The more I add to knowledge the more secure, the more assured the mind becomes, and, therefore it ceases to learn. Learning is never an additive process. When one is learning, it is an active process. Whereas acquiring knowledge is merely gathering information and storing it up. So I think there is a difference between acquiring knowledge and learning. Education throughout the world is merely the acquisition of knowledge and therefore the mind becomes dull and ceases to learn. The mind is merely acquiring. The acquisition dictates the conduct of life and, therefore, limits experience. Whereas learning is limitless.
Can one, in a school, not only acquire knowledge, which is necessary for living in this world, but also have a mind that is constantly learning? The two are not in contradiction. In a school, when knowledge becomes all-important, learning becomes a contradiction. Education should be concerned with the totality of life and not with the immediate responses to the immediate challenges.
Let us see what is involved in the two. If one is living in terms of the immediate, responding to the immediate challenge, the immediate is constantly repeated in different ways. In one year it will be war, the next year it may be revolution, in the third year industrial unrest; if one is living in terms of the immediate, life becomes very superficial. But you may say that that is enough because that is all we need to care about. That is one way of taking life. If you live that way it is an empty life. You can fill it with cars, books, sex, drink, more clothes, but it is shallow and empty. A man living an empty life, a shallow life, is always trying to escape; and escape means delusion, more gods, more beliefs, more dogmas, more authoritarian attitudes, or more football, more sex, more television. The immediate responses of those who live in the immediate are extraordinarily empty, futile, miserable. This is not my feeling or prejudice; you can watch it. You may say that is enough, or you may say that that is not good enough. So there must be the long vision, though I must of course act in the immediate, do something about it when the house is burning, but that is not the end of action. There must be something else, and how can one pursue that something else without bringing in authority, books, priests? Can one wipe them all out and pursue the other? If one pursues the other, this immediacy will be answered in a greater and more vital way. So, what do you, as a human being and also as an educator, a teacher, what do you feel about it?
I do not want you to agree with me. But if you have exercised your brain, if you have observed world events, if you have watched your own inclinations, your own demands, persuasions, if you have seen the whole state of man and his quivering despair, how do you respond? What is your action, your way of looking at it all? Forget that you are in a school. We are talking as human beings.
(From Krishnamurti on Education, pp 82-83
© Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd., England)